Monday, February 20, 2012

"Prayer carries us half way to God, fasting brings us to the door of His palace, and alms-giving procures us admission."

It is simply impossible to lead, without the aid of prayer, a virtuous life.--Saint John Chrysostom

Gospel text (Mk 9,14-29):
As Jesus came down from the mountain with Peter, James, John
and approached the other disciples,
they saw a large crowd around them and scribes arguing with them.
Immediately on seeing him,
the whole crowd was utterly amazed.
They ran up to him and greeted him.
He asked them, "What are you arguing about with them?"
Someone from the crowd answered him,
"Teacher, I have brought to you my son possessed by a mute spirit.
Wherever it seizes him, it throws him down;
he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid.
I asked your disciples to drive it out, but they were unable to do so."
He said to them in reply,
"O faithless generation, how long will I be with you?
How long will I endure you? Bring him to me."
They brought the boy to him.
And when he saw him,
the spirit immediately threw the boy into convulsions.
As he fell to the ground, he began to roll around
and foam at the mouth.
Then he questioned his father,
"How long has this been happening to him?"
He replied, "Since childhood.
It has often thrown him into fire and into water to kill him.
But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us."
Jesus said to him,
"'If you can!' Everything is possible to one who has faith."
Then the boy's father cried out, "I do believe, help my unbelief!"
Jesus, on seeing a crowd rapidly gathering,
rebuked the unclean spirit and said to it,
"Mute and deaf spirit, I command you:
come out of him and never enter him again!"
Shouting and throwing the boy into convulsions, it came out.
He became like a corpse, which caused many to say, "He is dead!"
But Jesus took him by the hand, raised him, and he stood up.
When he entered the house, his disciples asked him in private,
"Why could we not drive the spirit out?"
He said to them, "This kind can only come out through prayer."

If you can? We picture Jesus, hearing the emptiness in our prayers, shaking his head. "O faithless generation," he sighs.

Today Jesus invites us to examine our demons with our whole hearts. What kind of demons do we want to drive out of our lives? What addictions cripple us, throwing us to the ground each day? We sometimes feel the most powerless over the patterns that have been in our life for a long time, perhaps all our lives. Why could we not drive that spirit out? Why do we feel like saying "Well, I've tried and I just can't do it!"?

Jesus reminds us that the most troubling, difficult, evil problems we face take serious prayer, and maybe even fasting. To break the bond, the hold that some things just have on us, it takes strong medicine. Complete trust in God is a desire we need to ask for, and we have to prepare a place for it in our hearts. We prepare our lives and our hearts for Lent by praying for our deepest desires and with a new awareness of the fasting we will do in Lent.

It is in this moment that Jesus will take us by the hand and raise us from the hard, cold ground onto which we have fallen.

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